HandBrake is now a full blown video converter…

Turns out that a new snapshot (unofficial) version of my favourite DVD to iPod Converter is available. With the new version came new features like the one that allows me now to convert almost anything to wonderful iPod compatible movie files.

handbrake093

“HandBrake is an open-source, GPL-licensed, multiplatform, multithreaded DVD to MPEG-4 converter, available for MacOS X, Linux and Windows.”

I tried anything in my library, including some matroska movie files. Just everything worked – amazing!

Source: http://handbrake.fr/?article=snapshot

I finally got my low latency network audio solution

In May 2005 I wrote about a wish I had for years:

“As usual I’ve got a very strange wish what nobody else seems to have on this planet. I have several computers of different platforms. And on one of this machines there are speakers attached…I want to have the possibility to output from any of the machines to the speakers. And please loss-less and low latency!”

It took more than 3 years to fulfill this particular wish. But now it’s done. In 2005 I mentioned the Airfoil software that could run on MacOS X and forward sound from almost every application to an AirTunes compatible device. As it turns out Rogue Amoeba did their homework and created a free “Airfoil Speakers” application which can be used on Windows and MacOS X.

So the things are simple: Start the speaker application on a machine that is in the same network/subnet as the Airfoil master. The virtual speaker is then displayed on the master machine and you can assign a sound source from that machine to the speaker. Hmm… Simple Setup sample: One machine is in my kitchen (Windows XP machine) and one machine is on my desk – an iMac. In the kitchen only the speaker application is started and the iMac instantly “sees” the speaker. One click and the sound output of my desk machine is forwarded through the network to the kitchen… Easy and cool. One can think of any other combination of Speaker/Master application – even multiple speakers can be powered by one master…oh joy!

So here is what the master looks like:

airfoil

and this is what it looks like on a client (speaker):

airfoil2

Source 1: nerd wish of 2005
Source 2: http://rogueamoeba.com/airfoil/

Fixing the bad bad mouse acceleration in Mac OS X

I finally found a fix for the unspeakable mouse acceleration problem I have with MacOS X. It’s just a fact that Apple seems to have no idea how to do the mouse handling. Some people say it’s the mouse acceleration curve that apple got wrong:

“As wonderful as Mac OS X is, it has a grave defect that can have an immediate adverse impact on the computer’s usability: the way it translates mouse motion into pointer movement. For many users, moving the mouse feels unnatural because of the peculiar way that Mac OS X performs that translation. In industry parlance, the translation is called the “mouse acceleration curve.” What is a mouse acceleration curve, and how is its implementation problematic under Mac OS X?”

It’s a problem I can live with but I am not happy. With Panther and Tiger I had a solution called MacMiceCommand. But with Leopard this solution stopped working and until I found this:

“This is a GUI version of Richard Bentley’s MouseFix. (i)MouseFix is a very simple program that will allow you to regain control of the mouse acceleration in Mac OS X. Both this web page and the program copies large parts from MouseFix because he says: “feel free to take the code and wrap a nice interface round it. Be nice and make it free for everyone to use though :-)””

Source 1: mouse acceleration explained
Source 2: http://www.lavacat.com/iMouseFix/

Widelands – an opensource Settlers II clone

Logo

Widelands-Screen

From the wiki about section:

“In Widelands, you are the regent of a small tribe. You start out with nothing but your headquarters, a kind of castle in which all your resources are stored. In the course of the game, you will build an ever growing settlement. Every member of your tribe will do his or her part to produce more resources – wood, food, iron, gold and more – to further this growth. But you are not alone in the world, and you will meet other tribes sooner or later. Some of them may be friendly and trade with you. However, if you want to rule the world, you will have to train soldiers and fight.

Widelands offers a unique style of play. For example, a system of roads plays the central role of your economy: all the goods that are harvested and processed by the tribe must be transported from one building to the next. This is done by carriers, and those carriers always walk along the roads. It is your job to lay out the roads as efficiently as possible.

Another refreshing aspect of the game is the way you command your tribe. There is no need to tell every single one of your subjects what to do – that would be impossible, because there can be thousands of them! Instead, all you’ve got to do is order them to build a building somewhere, and the builders will come. Similarly, whenever you want to attack an enemy, just place an order to attack one of their barracks, and your soldiers will march to fight. You’re really a ruler: You delegate in times of war and in times of peace!

Widelands offers single-player mode with different campaigns; the campaigns all tell storys of tribes or Empires and their struggle in the Widelands universe! However, settling really starts when you unite with friends over the Internet or LAN to build up new empires together – or to crush each other in the dusts of war. Widelands also offers an Artifical Intelligence to challenge you.

In the end, Widelands will be extensible, so that you can create your own type of tribe with their own sets of buildings. You can create new worlds to play in, and you could even create new types of worlds (who says you can’t build a settlement on the moon?). ”

Source: http://xoops.widelands.org/

getting the iTunes library to move or programmatically access the library without iTunes

I am using iTunes as my main music player software for about 5 years now. In that time I had to move and restore my growing iTunes library more than 10 times. It can become quite a job to get it done properly so I came across this great howto article to help you and me out in the future:

“I see some discussion about fixing busted iTunes libraries, either when moving one on the same computer or migrating to a new one. Here’s what I have found works for me. Bonus: no slow AppleScripts or payments (donations cheerfully accepted and squandered).

First, what I have discovered about how iTunes manages music collections. There are two files it uses, one that is binary (ie, machine readable for faster performance on searching, sorting, add/edit/delete operations) and one that has the same information but in a human readable format (for a certain subset of humans who can read XML natively). The XML file is written from the binary file as a backup (check the dates to confirm).”

But that isn’t were it needs to stop. I had to do some more things with my iTunes library lately – like extracting all that ratings and exporting them into a new music player software I liked to test. I therefore wrote myself a little tool in C# that does the job of reading in the whole iTunes library and giving you programmatically access to that library. It only needs to have read access to the Mediathek.xml file iTunes stores in it’s music folder and you from there on can work your way through the bazillions of music tracks you may or may not have in your library. It even does the find-and-replace job a bit easier than the solution mentioned in the article above.

I release the code under the CC-Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license and here is your download:

ReadiTunesMediathek.zip (11,82 KB)

This code is a simple example of how to use the XmlTextReader in C# and how to traverse through them. It should be easy to understand and easy to change. I would love to hear from you when and if it helped you.

xmltextreader

Source 1: iTunes library, fixing a broken one or moving one
Source 2: ReadiTunesMediathek.zip (11,82 KB)

How to use the intertubes to display music videos along your ordinary music

If you got a Mac (and that’s the platform it’s only running on) and if you’re using iTunes to listen to your music you probably want to give this Dashboard Widget a try – it automatically searches the music video which supposedly belongs to the music you’re currently listening to and plays it in a small window on the dashboard:

“YouTube has stacks and stacks of music videos on their website. I have written a little dashboard widget called iTube. iTube gets the artist and title of the song you are playing in iTunes. It then performs a search on youtube and plays the first hit in the widget window. Once installed iTube works by itself in the background, so start a song up iTunes then look at your dashboard and with a little luck you’ll be watching what you are listening to.”

itube

Source: http://philipandrews.org/blog/itube/

Xbox Media Center for OSX renames itself to PLEX

It’s not as many of those fance company-blogs like gizmodo have written: not the Xbox Media Center project (which makes XBMC for Windows, Linux, Xbox 1 and OSX) renamed itself – infact only the fork of OSXBMC renamed itself to PLEX.

“The one name that stuck was Plex. I like it because it evokes “cineplex” and the suffix means “comprising a number of parts” which the application certain does. In mathematics, you use the suffix to mean “ten to the power of the number” (e.g. oneplex = 10).

Because there are no four-letter domain names left (seriously, try to find one!) we decided to square the plex, so to speak. Think of either plex^2 or plex squared (the beta logo below tries to connote the word “plex” inside a square that might represent a TV screen). The domain names are plex2.com, plexsquared.com, and plexsquare.com for good measure. They are not active yet.

In the coming days, we’ll be working on the rebranding process, including the application packaging, logo, web domains, etc. In the longer term, we have some exciting things in the skin department as well. Stay tuned, and thanks for all your support; we really are lucky to have such an great community.”

Along with the new name comes a new logo:

plex2

Source: http://www.osxbmc.com/
Source 2: http://www.plex2.com

publish your iTunes library on your network without actually using iTunes on the client

There’s a new version of Dot.Tunes out which is now available for free. That’s good news and if you ever wanted to access your iTunes Library and you were not in Bonjour range…try this great tool!

Bild 1

“DOT.TUNES is not some lightweight iTunes utility. It’s a fully developed web server application that supports MP3, AAC, AIFF, WAV, MPEG, MP4, and MOV files, allowing you to share your iTunes library contents with your friends in other cities, your classmates across the dorm or the coworkers scattered throughout the building. DOT.TUNES contains a custom web server designed specifically to serve the audio tracks from your iTunes at lightning fast speeds. Through seamless integration with your iTunes base, DOT.TUNES easily handles large libraries without missing a beat.”

I tried it and it’s working quite well – especially if you consider that there’s a bunch of plugins available.(which you have to pay for)

Source: http://www.dottunes.net

have serious fun with…free 2D physics sandbox tools

The standard nerd knows: physics is fun. Even better: When you play with gravity and friction and water an what-not in a sandbox. Now there are several tools available that allow you to do just that: Play with physics.

The first tool is called “phun” and is Windows and Linux only. It’s a small tool that allows you to draw circles, boxes, springs,… and when you finished: press the “play” button to start the simulation. You can interact all the time with the objects and the simulation by draging and manipulating everything.

phun 

There’s even a video available of phun in action:

It’s serious fun…that phun tool… yeah I had to write that, you know?!

The second tool I want to write about is called “Chipmunk” and is available for OS X only. To be fair: this is not a real drawing tool like phun – it’s more or less a game physics engine that cames with several samples in sourcecode that you can play with if you can… You need XCode and some Objective C knowledge.

tower

So now go and play!

Source 1: http://www.acc.umu.se/~emilk/index.html
Source 2: http://wiki.slembcke.net/main/published/Chipmunk

if I’ll ever need a multi-track audio tool again…

This post is more of a reminder for myself. ;-) I need to remember that obviously great multi-track audio application that just became available.

“Ardour is a digital audio workstation. You can use it to record, edit and mix multi-track audio. You can produce your own CDs, mix video soundtracks, or just experiment with new ideas about music and sound.

Ardour capabilities include: multichannel recording, non-destructive editing with unlimited undo/redo, full automation support, a powerful mixer, unlimited tracks/busses/plugins, timecode synchronization, and hardware control from surfaces like the Mackie Control Universal. If you’ve been looking for a tool similar to ProTools, Nuendo, Pyramix, or Sequoia, you might have found it.

Above all, Ardour strives to meet the needs of professional users. This means implementing all the “hard stuff” that other DAWs ( even some leading commercial apps ) handle incorrectly or not at all. Ardour has a completely flexible “anything to anywhere” routing system, and will allow as many physical I/O ports as your system allows. Ardour supports a wide range of audio-for-video features such as video-synced playback and pullup/pulldown sample rates. You will also find powerful features such as “persistent undo”, multi-language support, and destructive track punching modes that aren’t available on other platforms.”

Source: http://www.ardour.org/

lazy leopard

Oh damn. So Apple said that Leopard – the next iteration of OS X – is coming in October instead of spring. I planned buying a macbook early this year but now I have to wait … Damn! I wanted to reorganize my hardware…

To make one thing clear: I do not buy a macbook because of OS X. I am buying it because it also runs Windows. Diversity is a good thing. I currently already own a PowerPC mac just because I wanted to see what all the fuss is about two years ago.

Beyond the Red Line: Battlestar Galactica game

There’s a free fan made Battlestar Galactica game available…

“Beyond the Red Line is a stand-alone total conversion for the award-winning Freespace 2 released by Volition and Interplay for the PC. It is based on the popular new tv-show Battlestar Galactica. No, not the one from the 70s.”

It’s free and available for Windows, OS X and Linux.

Source: http://www.game-warden.com/bsg/

great calc for OSX

If you need one, take a look at this one:

“A free, full-featured, graphically laid out, high-precision, scientific calculator for Mac OS X 10.4 and greater. Full source-code is included with the distribution.
Ideal if you need to enter large expressions or have accurate precision. “Data” drawers allow an easy way to generate statistical data, linear regression and gaussian elimination. The extensive support of complex numbers and hexadecimal numbers is also a significant benefit for anyone who has to work with this type of data.”

Source: http://home.swiftdsl.com.au/~mattg/

Open Transport Tycoon Deluxe

You are a fan of SIM* games? You want something light to take on your travels and play from time to time? I got good news for you: Open Transport Tycoon Deluxe is available in it’s final version 0.5.

It’s running on Windows, Linux and MacOS and you will need the original Transport Tycoon Deluxe files because OpenTTD just reuses the graphics of the old version.

But when you got all that you get a very very great game that doesn’t need much resources and is insane fun.

Source: http://www.openttd.org/index.php

speedup Mail.app (or at least try to)

“As everyone knows, it is possible to get quite a speed boost out of Mail.app by stripping all the bloat out of its Envelope index, an SQLite database Mail uses to store senders, recipients, subjects and so on.”

It can lead to a speedup of Mail.App. Despite the fact it decreased the Envelope Index for me it wasn’t really noticable… but your mileage may vary.

Source: hawkwings

WPF/E on a Mac

Oh that’s interesting. WPF/E is running on a Mac which leads to the new platform independent approach for Microsofts Windows Presentation Foundation technology…booyah!

You want to take a look on WPF/E by yourself? Well, go ahead.

Source 1: http://blogs.msdn.com/webnext/archive/2006/12/05/i-m-a-mac-and-i-run-wpf-e.aspx
Source 2: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=A3E29817-F841-46FC-A1D2-CEDC1ED5C948&displaylang=en

KDE on MacOS X

Well nice description what this could do:

“They may not work. They may not even install. They may make your monitor explode in a shower of glass. EVEN LCDs! They may make your children grow horns, and cause the people in your neighborhood to explode spontaneously while doing the Macarena. They will rip out your eyeballs, and eat your soul with a really dull spoon, laughing and cackling while forcing Cheerios up your nose. They will make your intestines explode in a rain of confetti, while evil clowns bite your feet.”

But what it really will do is slightly different:

Source: http://ranger.users.finkproject.org/kde/#about

Paul Thurrott: Who’s the Copycat Now?

Paul Thurrott writes about the upcoming cat:

“Sometimes I wonder how Apple CEO Steve Jobs can sleep at night. He appears to spend half his waking hours ridiculing Microsoft’s admittedly behind-schedule operating system, Windows Vista, for copying Mac OS X features. But this week at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), he announced ten new features for Leopard, the next version of OS X, most of which will seem more than vaguely familiar to Windows users. I’m not dim: Microsoft does copy Apple on a fairly regular basis. But seriously, Steve. Apple’s just as bad.”

Source: http://www.winsupersite.com/showcase/macosx_leopard_preview.asp

what does a Leopard best? It kills.

“While yesterday’s preview of Leopard didn’t show too much (I’m talking about the “top secret” features that Steve left out this time around), it did show enough to, well, make quite a few shareware and freeware applications somewhat obsolete”

Follow the link and find out which applications are going to be obsolete and which programmers will find themselves searching for a new job soon…

Source: http://phillryu.com/2006/08/08/7-apps-on-leopards-hit-list/

Apple User Interface design flaws…

I really like the User Interface that Mac OSX gives me. I even like the iLife applications and I used them for the first time just for fun… and I came across something which is a really serious design flaw in my opinion: notice the black dot in the red “close”-button of each window:

This dot apparently shows me that I cannot do anything with this window apart from moving it around.The dot shows that the document changed – in the case of the iLife applications you cannot do anything else than moving the window around… you cannot minimize it. And the case is: The only thing I don’t want to do with such a window is starring at it’s progress bar and waiting … So normally I and probably every other user wants to hide/minimize that window. But it’s impossible. It’s just not allowed to minimize it…

Why is that? Ideas anyone?

handy Mac bootup hotkey combinations

Personally I like the cmd-opt-shift-delete-# combination most… how much more complicated could they’ve made it?

Key Combination Effect
mouse down Eject removable media
opt Bring up OF system picker on New World machines
cmd-opt Hold down until 2nd chime, will boot into Mac OS 9 ?
cmd-x (or just x?) Will boot into Mac OS X if 9 and X are on the same partition and that’s the partition you’re booting from
cmd-opt-shift-delete Bypass startup drive and boot from external (or CD). This actually forces the system to NOT load the driver for the default volume, which has the side effect mentioned above. For SCSI devices it searches from highest ID to lowest for a partition with a bootable system. Not sure about IDE drives.
cmd-opt-shift-delete-# Boot from a specific SCSI ID # (# = SCSI ID number)
cmd-opt-p-r Zap PRAM. Hold down until second chime.
cmd-opt-n-v Clear NV RAM. Similar to reset-all in Open Firmware.
cmd-opt-o-f Boot into open firmware
cmd-opt-t-v Force Quadra AV machines to use TV as a monitor
cmd-opt-x-o Boot from ROM (Mac Classic only)
cmd-opt-a-v Force an AV monitor to be recognized as one
c Boot from CD. If set to boot to X and no CD is present, may boot to 9.
d Force the internal hard disk to be the startup device
n Hold down until Mac logo, will attempt to boot from network server (using BOOTP or TFTP)
r Force PowerBooks to reset the screen
t Put FireWire machine into FireWire Target Disk mode
z Attempt to boot using the devalias zip from first bootable partition found
shift (Classic only) Disable Extensions, (OS X, 10.1.3 and later) Disables login items. Also disables non-essential kernel extensions (safe boot mode)
cmd (Classic only) Boot with Virtual Memory off
space (Classic only) Trigger extension manager at boot-up
cmd-v (OS X only) show console messages during boot
cmd-s (OS X only) boot into single user mode

iTunes Agent: great try…now get more sophisticated

I thought many times of such an application. A tool that would allow me to use almost every MP3 player available on the market to sync with iTunes…

This solution does work – there are no worries. But it’s not the perfect solution of the problem. The perfect solution would be an application that runs on the MP3 player (Windows Mobile, eh?) and allows the MP3 player to pretend it is actually an iPod. Than no software on the Mac/PC is necessary to sync…

Anyone got the iTunes/iPod sync protocol documentation ready?

“iTunes Agent is a small application resting in your system tray constantly looking for new MP3 players and other music capable dev”ices connecting to your system. When a device it recognizes is connected to the system, it will create a playlist for the device in iTunes and it will synchronize that list with tracks on your device.

You may then modify this list, add and remove tracks, before you tell the iTunes Agent to synchronize the list with your player”

Source: http://ita.sourceforge.net/